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Life in the Balance

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Francis Foulkes: “The duties of the pastor (literally ‘shepherd’) are to feed the flock with spiritual food and to see that they are protected from spiritual danger.”
When I became the pastor of our church (1, 664 days ago), one of the most important goals in my life was to prayerfully identify God’s direction for Racine Assembly of God.
I prayed, met with many of you at my home, and worked through ideas that would be helpful to building our church. But, through all the best intentions and hard work, something was missing.
I did not feel at peace to proceed with my plans. Then, two years in July, at a meeting with our Assistant General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God (Alton Garrison), at opportunity was presented and I felt the Holy Spirit’s nudge to begin a fresh journey toward vision.
But, this journey would have one big difference—I was not to identify and implement God’s purpose for this church alone. This would be a shared vision.
So, with the blessing of our church board, we assembled a team of people—all of whom are active participants in the life of this church—who would prayerfully work together for our church’s future.
On the last Sunday of this month—September 30—we will launch a new vision for our church—a shared vision birthed in prayer and worked through together with God’s Word.
Today, I want to invite you on a new journey. The next four weeks I want to examine from God’s Word, why we as a church and us as individual Christians, need to have a vision—a vision from God.
Jeremiah 6:16 ESV
16 Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
The people of ancient Israel were held in captivity—away from their homeland, away from the cities, away from the place where they worshipped.
How long would they live in this state of discouragement? How long would they be separated from their home?
Then, through His prophet, Jeremiah, He gave His people a message of hope!
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
These were not empty words or powerless promises! What God says He did!
Almost exactly 70 years after the first Temple is Jerusalem was destroyed and the people sent into exile as captives of Babylon—God’s prophetic promise was fulfilled:
Ezra 6:16 ESV
16 And the people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.
A new Temple was erected and the worship of God in Jerusalem resumed.
This new beginning would prepare Israel and the world for the First Coming of the Messiah (500 years later).

God has a purpose and a plan for Racine Assembly of God—where He wants us to be!

Reveal “B”
This is the place of vision—this is what God wants us to be and do! The is the center of what God is doing—and He wants us to be with where He is at!
This is not a place of pretending to be the church—this is where the REAL church is at. This is God’s destination for us!
I can describe this place from the very words of Jesus:
Matthew 28:19–20 ESV
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
God is wanting us—calling us to fulfill with effectiveness and anointing making disciples (fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ).

In order for us to BE where God wants us to be we need to identify where we are AT.

Reveal “A”
We need to take a good, hard, honest look at ourselves—both as an individual Christian and as a collective group of Christians—called the Church.
Because we have the propensity of exaggerating our strengths and minimizing our weaknesses, we need God’s help to identify the truth of our spiritual condition.
King David of the Old Testament prayed:
Psalm 139:23–24 ESV
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Announce: On Sunday, September 23, at 6:00 p.m., we are going to come together for a special night of prayer and worship.
Identifying our struggles, our failures, and our shortcomings can be quite humbling.

We need to resist the temptation of covering up those things to we need to change.

When we know where we are and know where God wants us to be, then we are ready to make the journey—AND THE JOURNEY IS NOT EASY. The “road” God wants us to take is the difficult road...
…a road that requires change.
…a road that requires effort and work.
…a road that requires sacrifice.
…a road that requires courage.
…a road that requires prayer.
…a road that requires trust (trust in God).
…a road that requires power (of the Holy Spirit).
Jesus reminds us:
Matthew 7:13–14 ESV
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Because the WAY to where God wants us to BE is difficult...

We must resist the tendency to be led by fear and doubt.

Climb onto the balance beam.
From your perspective, this may seem easy to cross. From my perspective...
…I may fall off and you will laugh at me.
…I may fall off and feel pain.
…I may fall off and break my leg.
So I may allow fear, pride, and the possibility of being uncomfortable to hinder my journey to be where God wants me to be.
As a result I may come to the conclusion that staying where I am is better than being where God wants me to be. So, we resist change.
And, when we resist change, we have a tendency to look back at the fond memories of the past rather than looking forward to promise of God’s future for us.
But, if I am going to be where God wants me to be I need to go from where I am at.
If we are going to be the church—full of the anointing of God—we are going to need to move forward.
But still, it can be quite terrifying. We can quickly second-guess ourselves. We can wonder if we are truly hearing from God. We can worry that we might not have what it takes to successfully fulfill God’s plan and purpose.
But, there is something inherently powerful in the Church—and all it takes is a minimum of two or three people. It is...

The power of unity within the authority of Jesus leads the Church toward God’s purpose.

This is a powerful principle declared by Jesus Himself:
Matthew 18:19–20 ESV
19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Could I have traveled on this beam myself—maybe. But, with someone else, I can more confidently journey toward where God wants me to be.
Instead of being critical—or judgmental—or negative—what if we could encourage one another to fulfill God’s purpose?
Receive help to walk across the balance beam.
If only we could fulfill our purpose in the span of thirty minutes!
But, this we know: life can be hard at times, but in the power of Jesus, united with fellow believers, we can accomplish much!
Jesus said:
John 10:10 ESV
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Jesus calls his followers, not to a dour, lifeless, miserable existence that squashes human potential, but to a rich, full, joyful life, one overflowing with meaningful activities under the personal favor and blessing of God and in continual fellowship with his people.
Are you ready for a REAL journey to God’s favor and blessing?
Prayer (Transition)
Worship Team (play “Amazing Grace” as background)

The starting point for us not just to know where God wants us to BE, or taking a hard look at where we are AT, but who we are IN CHRIST.

Galatians 2:20 ESV
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
We need to remind ourselves of what Jesus did for us—for He rescued us from the dominion of darkness and has brought us into the light of His love and grace.
Worship Team (sing: “Amazing Grace—My Chains are Gone”)
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